Ancient Egyptian And Mesopotamian Cultures Essay, Research Paper
Ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian Cultures
Around the time 4,000-1,000 BC there were two major western civilizations. Those civilizations were the Ancient Egyptians and the Mesopotamians. Many similarities exist between the civilizations of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, as well as many differences. Both Egypt and Mesopotamia were polytheistic, that is, they believed their worlds were ruled by more than one god. Both cultures also believed that they themselves were created for the purpose of serving their gods. Their similarities include the existence of educational systems and codes of law. Their differences are found partly in those similarities, as well as their medical practices and their interpretations of the great floods. There are many patterns that are common of the civilizations of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, which shows that there were some patterns of development that might be common to early civilizations, but they probably didn?t have very much contact with each other.
Both of the civilizations believed in education. The people of Sumer were expected to do what was asked of them and to behave properly while in school. If the pupils were late for school or failed to complete their assignments, they would be beaten with a stick, or caned. One story about a Sumerian boy, who was not doing well in school, tells of the kinds of small things children would be punished for, such as poor penmanship. This story shows us how common this sort of discipline was: ?Who was in charge of drawing said ?Why when I was not here did you stand up?? caned me. My teacher said ?Your hand is not good,? caned me.? (A Sumerian Schoolboy, SPV 15). It seams that if they misbehaved at all during school they would be punished by being by a cane.
The school children of Egypt were advised by their fathers to be men of pride and to listen to their people. The advice that a father gave to his son was very important, telling that son how to behave to make both himself and his family proud. ?Take counsel with the ignorant, as well as the wise? (A Father?s Advice, SPV 31) advises that wisdom may be found from the lips of all people; not only from the scholars or artisans, but from the slaves and common folk as well.
The Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians had different theories as to how they came about and why they were created. Both civilizations believed that the gods created them. The Mesopotamians believed that the mightier gods forced the lesser gods into slavery, and that the Mesopotamian people were created to take over for those lesser gods when they revolted. ?When the gods, like man, bore the work, carried the labor-basket?the labor-basket of the great gods?the work was heavy, much was the distress…? (A Creation Myth: ?Let Man Carry the Labor-Basket of the Gods, SPV 13) is saying that the lesser gods had to do the hard labor before man was created. ?While Nintu is present, let the birth-goddess create the offspring, let man bear the labor-basket of the gods? was what Enlil said after he agreed to create humans to do the physical labor. ?I have removed your heavy labor, have placed your labor-basket on man,? is what he said to the gods after humans were created. (A Creation Myth: ?Let Man Carry the Labor-Basket of the Gods, SPV 13).
The Egyptian creation theory is different from that of the Mesopotamians. The Egyptians thought that Khepri created all the humans and created the other gods as well. It was believed the Kherpi created the lesser gods from his spit and humans from his semen. ?I planned in my own heart, and there came into being a multitude of forms of beings, the forms of children and the forms of their children. I was the one who copulated with my fist, I masturbated with my hand. Then I spewed with my own mouth: I spat out what was Shu, and I sputtered out what was Tefnut.? (The Book of Knowing the Creations, HD #5).
The Code of Hammurabi is the Mesopotamian written code of law. It is a very complete and specific code of law, which allowed specific punishment for almost every crime that could be committed against the Mesopotamian people. The laws are also very severe when it comes to punishment. Law number twenty-two states that, ?If a man has robbed and has been captured, that man shall be put to death.? Law number twenty-five say that ?If a fire broke out in a man?s house and a man who has come to extinguish the fire has lifted up his eyes to the property of the householder and has taken the property of the householder, that man shall be thrown into the fire.? Law number fifty-three states that ?If a man has neglected to strengthen the dyke of his canal, and a breach has opened in his dyke, and the waters have ravaged the meadow, the man in whose dyke the breach has been opened shall make good the corn that he caused to be lost.? (The Code of Hammurabi, ARC 5). Despite these strict laws, it seems as though their code was either never followed very closely or the Mesopotamians didn?t care much for the code, since a large amount of evidence of dispute over these laws and their subsequent punishments exists. There are laws about stealing, divorce, adultery, and negligence, just to name a few.
The Egyptians did not have a written form of law, at least that we know of, even though there is evidence that they did have laws. When an Egyptian died and was buried they were typically buried with a tablet that had their declaration of innocence on it. This shows us that they understood the difference between what was right and what was wrong. A portion of the declaration reads:
?Hail, Fentiu, who come forth from Khemennu, I have not stolen.
?Hail, you Flame, which comes and goes, I have spoken no lies.
?Hail, you two-headed serpent, who come forth from the torture chamber, I have not defiled the wife of any man.
?Hail, you who caused mankind to flourish, who come forth from Sais, I have never cursed God.? (Declaration of Innocence, ARC 9)
This shows that the Ancient Egyptians knew that if they stole, lied, cursed the God, ect. they would not be let into the afterlife.
The civilizations of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia also had many differences. One major difference was the theory of the great flood. The Mesopotamians thought that the great flood was put there to kill mankind. They thought that the gods were angry with them because they were too loud and the gods could not rest with all of their noise. Then Enlil said to the gods ?The uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of the babel.? (The Babylonian Account of the Flood, HD #3). The Babylonians knew that the gods were angry with them and wanted to kill them because Ea came down to one the Babylonians and told him of the gods? plan to destroy their civilization with the great flood. With that, the Babylonian started building a gigantic ship. ?For six days and six nights the winds blew, torrents and tempest and flood overwhelmed the world, tempest and flood raged together like warring hosts. When the seventh day dawned the storm from the south subsided, the sea grew calm, the flood was stilled.? (The Babylonian Account of the Flood, HD #3).
The Egyptians had a different attitude toward the annual flooding of the River Nile. They realized that the flooding made their land more fertile for farming, which is how the Egyptians grew their food to keep them alive. The Egyptians believed that the gods rewarded them by flooding the Nile each year. They thought that the Nile was ?The bringer of all food, rich in provisions, creator of all food, lord of majesty, sweet of fragrance.? (SPV 21)
Another major difference was in medicine. The Mesopotamians made little mention of doctors or medical practices. However, the Ancient Egyptians had specific treatments for different medical problems. An example from The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus states that in a case with a wound to the head penetrating to the bone the and the examination shows a wound penetrating to the bone, but does not has a gash he should ?bind it with fresh meat the first day and treat afterward with grease, honey and line every day until he recovers.? (The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, HD #6).
In conclusion, the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia had many similarities and differences. They were similar by the fact that they had systems of education, theories about their own creations and their codes of law, whether it be written or implied. Their similarities makes one wonder how these two civilizations had limited contact with each other. Their similarities are also a part of the differences between the two cultures. From their similar educational systems came their very different means of discipline in the schools, each created for different purposes, one was for the good of society and the other was for the pride and honor of the family. There are obvious patterns of similarities that could be common amongst all early civilizations.